Aidin Vaziri | Sharon Jones doesn’t really care for the “retro” tag. “I’m not a retro singer,” says the former Rikers Island prison guard. “I was born in 1956. I am old school.” It’s certainly hard to argue with the electrifying R&B she turns out with her longtime backing band, the Dap-Kings, on their new album, “I Learned the Hard Way.” The group’s profile may have risen in recent years thanks to gigs with Amy Winehouse and Al Green, but the record proves that nothing compares with the music the band members make with the inimitable Jones. The singer spoke with us from the Brooklyn headquarters of the band’s label, Daptone Records.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Q: Does your experience as a prison guard at Rikers Island help you keep the band in line?
A: I don’t keep them in line. They’re grown men. I’m not their wives. I’m not their mothers. I’m not their anything. Only time something really annoys me is lateness. When I say be in the hotel lobby at 10, be in the hotel lobby at 10. Not 10:15. Not 10:30. That happened one day, and we missed a festival. I was so angry at them. That was so hurtful. I said, “See what a difference that 15 minutes made?”
Q: I heard you weren’t happy about lending the band to Amy Winehouse for “Back to Black.”
A: The guys in the band all did get Rolex watches. I didn’t get any dang Rolex. Every time they were putting them on, they would be like, “Ooh!” But everything is good. No one is jealous about anything. It’s all benefiting us in the long run.